Provisions of Oxford

Provisions of Oxford

Provisions of Oxford, 1258, a scheme of governmental reform forced upon Henry III of England by his barons. In 1258 a group of barons, angered by the king's Sicilian adventure and the expenditures it entailed, compelled Henry to accept the appointment of a committee of 24 nobles, half of whom were to be chosen by the king, for the purpose of drafting a scheme of constitutional reform. Under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, the plan was drawn up at Oxford in June, 1258. It provided for a council of 15 members to advise the king and to meet three times a year to consult with representatives of the realm. Committees were chosen by an involved electoral system to keep check upon the various branches of the government. Local administrative reforms were instituted and an effort made to limit the taxing power of the king. The committee of 24 completed their work the following year by drawing up an enlarged version of the Provisions of Oxford known as the Provisions of Westminster. The new document provided for additional inheritance and taxation reforms. Divisions among the barons themselves enabled Henry to repudiate the provisions, with papal sanction, in 1261. There followed a period of strife known as the Barons' War (1263-67), which terminated in a victory for the king. The clauses of the provisions that limited monarchical authority were then annulled, but the legal clauses of the Provisions of Westminster were reaffirmed in the Statute of Marlborough (1267).
Oxford, Provisions of: see Provisions of Oxford.
The Provisions of Oxford were installed in 1258 by a group of barons led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester; these documents are often regarded as England's first written constitution. The provisions forced King Henry III of England to accept a new form of government in which power was placed in the hands of a council of 15 members who were to supervise ministerial appointments, local administration and the custody of royal castles. Parliament, meanwhile, which was to meet three times a year, would monitor the performance of this council. Its significance was that, for the first time, the English Crown was forced to recognize the rights and powers of Parliament.

A written confirmation of the agreement was sent to the sheriffs of all the counties of England in Latin, French and, significantly, in Middle English. The use of the English language was symbolic of the Anglicisation of the government of England and an antidote to the Francization which had taken place in the decades immediately before (see entry on Henry III of England). The Provisions were the first English government document to be published in English since the Norman Conquest two hundred years before.

The Provisions of Oxford were replaced the next year in 1259 by the Provisions of Westminster. These Provisions were overthrown by Henry, helped by a papal bull, in 1261, which seeded the start of the Second Barons' War (1263-1267), which the King won. In 1266 it was annulled for the last time by the Dictum of Kenilworth.

The availability of a broader collection of writs transferred business to the Common Law Courts in London, and aroused so much resentment that in 1258 the Provisions of Oxford provided that no further expansion of the writ system would be allowed.

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